Play Revolution

National Railway Museum, York, UK

January 2024

Installation comprising wood, paint and polyethylene

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Play Revolution is a playful art installation for Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery at the National Railway Museum (NRM) in York. It is a permanent, interactive artwork that includes fixed and loose parts to explore engineering habits of mind. All elements are influenced by the displays and archives at the museum with input from children and young people at the Snappy Trust.

Play Revolution is sited a dedicated space within Wonderlab: The Bramall Gallery and utilises the floor, walls and ceiling to create a playful environment to be explored in its entirety. Two green ‘banks’ sit on opposing walls with a mass of foam blocks comprising different shapes, colours and sizes that can be broken down into beams, cubes, cylinders, pyramids and polygons.

The prompt to play is to build span the space using the blocks to connect the two banks allowing people or objects to cross from one side to the other without touching the floor. This could include walls, bridges, ramps, sculptures or obstacle courses. Ropes, nooks and recesses maximise the playability of the space extending the activity zone to the ceiling and inside the walls.

Play Revolution is an opportunity to experiment (build, test and improve) and to be creative in ways that are sociable and fun. It’s a permissive, colourful, fun environment where there’s no right or wrong way of doing things and where adaptability, risk taking and open-mindedness are encouraged.

The title of the work refers to a revolution which can be interpreted in two ways: on the one hand it denotes an instance of revolving or being centred around something; on the other, an overturning of the status quo. Here both definitions refer to re-centring of play as a core value by society and in education. Opportunities to play together in real life have been in decline over the last 50 years and these have been reduced further during the pandemic and continue to diminish as the cost-of-living crisis bites.

And yet play is a basic human driver that is fundamental to human existence. It’s how we develop resilience, confidence, social and motor skills and when denied can lead to depression, anxiety, loneliness and isolation.*

Play Revolution is an artwork where visitors of all ages and abilities can design, build and play together, an artwork that re-establishes play as a central building block of life that nurtures our creativity, sociality and wellbeing during times of ecological, political and social breakdown.

Play Revolution is a site specific response to the NRM based on Play Rebellion which took place at Baltic Centre For Contemporary Art in Gateshead from October 2019 to February 2020.

* Stuart Brown ‘Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul’ 2010

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